Pune: The increasing cases of crime and the depressing conviction rate is no new thing in the Indian judiciary system.
One of the prime reasons for the low conviction rate is due to the witnesses turning hostile that results in weakening the case for prosecution. Now, the state government's home department has come up with a resolution to counter this.
On April 11, the Bombay High Court, in its gazette, assured protection to witnesses by the state government's home department.
The directive has come up after the Bombay HC judges, justice P V Hardas and A M Thipsay, in a criminal writ petition filed by Vijay Shrikrishna Jadhav, observed, "It is expected that the state government would formulate a scheme for witness protection as expeditiously as possible in order to ensure that the witnesses, who are deposed in a criminal trial, should thereafter not be left at the mercy of the offenders and their life is not jeopardized. The state government must take all precautions as are necessary in order to ensure that the life of a witness is protected."
As per the GR, committees should be formed at the district level, police headquarters, anti-terrorist squad, crime branch and other police investigation departments which should be headed by officials above the rank of additional commissioner.
The committee should also have two other deputy commissioner-ranked officers.
Witnesses can either apply directly to any of the constituted committees or they can be represented by their lawyers if they are being threatened. The departmental committee go through the application and investigate evidence within 15 days.
If any of the departments do not accept the application, the witness can apply back to the committee at the police headquarters, which will review the application within three months.
The witness will be provided with security as soon as the application is accepted. Further, the security will be provided as required in each case, and a decision will be taken by the committee. If the witness turns hostile, protection will be taken away. This police protection will be offered free of cost to the witness.
Special public prosecutor Raja Thakare, who is pleading on behalf of state in the serial-blasts cases in Mumbai, said, "It's a good initiative taken by the government. Many a times, witnesses come forward to record a statement, but later they lose interest and suddenly they get summons to remain present in the court. They lose track of the case and when suspects call, the witness panics, which is a major reason for witnesses turning hostile."
Conviction rates in the state
According to the state CID report, the conviction rate in Maharashtra for 2012 (January-December) has risen a notch over the previous year. It went from 8.2 per cent in 2011 to 9.4 per cent in 2012. For the first three months of 2013, the rate rose to 15.1 per cent. However, this annual conviction rate is abysmally low compared to the national average of 38.5 per cent in 2012.